Sitting outside one morning watching the sun rise above the hills of the Colonial Valley and sipping from a cup of coffee cradled between my hands and warming the air around and within I looked down into the cup of dark liquid and this came to mind…
A shadowy and bitter brew somehow satisfying some hidden emotional need.
In its liquid darkness the Daimon hid and waited to spring forward on my not fully awake soul and wrestle me to the ground demanding that I pay attention. With the next sip I paused to look inward and again found the other self.
Reflections from the dark mirror within the cup transformed into intuitive murmurs and visions from the unconscious like Scrying mirror images from the imaginal.
Suddenly, as these things always seem to come, the quiet turned to tension and I knew that it was time again to get up and confront the Daimon.
“Is the devil invading my dreams?” has been a worry communicated by several dreamers over the years. My likely response was always to deal with the symbolic meaning of the devil or demon mainly because each of us create our own demonic forms based on our cultural, religious, and familial influences. Though this little devil will show up in many forms his existence is an archetype from the collective unconscious of humankind meaning that it resides within the universal psyche as an expression of the antithetical and contrasted phenomena that create the reality that we see.
For example, for something to be experienced as being “good” requires a definition or experience of something being “bad”, female requires male, up needs a down, positive requires a negative, and right needs a left.
Ultimately it is Death that gives meaning to Life and vice versa. Generally speaking it’s our polar opposites that create and inform the reality that we see. It’s fundamentally this conflict that we struggle with that enriches the experience of reality that we create.
When this contrary little demon shows up in a dream it is usually there to point out a conundrum, a paradox, an unattended to contradiction, something denied, rejected, or repressed that is causing us discomfort or driving inappropriate behaviors. Just as with all the other archetypal images the demons are there for our health and well being.
The Devil in a dream can represent our struggle with our basic urges, that which pulls us down. He (or she) can represent our fears, negative aspects and limitations though it can also represent cunning, cleverness and deception. If the devil is talking to you it can suggest that you might you be worried that certain temptations are becoming hard to resist. If you’re friendly with the devil perhaps you are talking yourself or allowing someone to talk you into something that you really don’t want to do. Dealing with the devil or a demon in any way within a dream may reflect your need to deal with an issue of morality in your waking life.
When a demon shows up as Satan itself it can be about things in the inner and outer world that you may fear or you think are out of your control. This can represent something or someone adversarial or confrontational as in an attacker or accuser or just someone critical of you or your work. Frequently people invoke this image and project it onto other people so as to justify hurting them. This happens in all wars or when one takes sides in a political controversy.
Sometimes people experience being possessed by some demon in their dreams. Being possessed is also an archetype and over the centuries people from all cultures would employ priests or shaman, even lay mediums to exorcize an individual’s devil that has “possessed” them. Today we’re more likely to consult a therapist.
But even now the old version of the primitive possessor demon lives within an unexplored psychic phenomena and acts out behaviors that are contrary to a person’s best interest. One only needs to look at how many so-called fearful “conservatives” will vote for the very issues and people that only mean them harm, directly or indirectly, to see the truth of that statement.
All too often when we deny our complexes1, our worries, and repressed fears and emotions our demons so to speak, can possess us, in that we allow another force and energy to take over our lives, both internally and externally.
But sometimes he’s just there to show us some clarity on what is good.
1 Complex: A pattern of emotions, perceptions, wishes, or memories in our Personal Unconscious. Some of these patterns can manifest themselves somatically i.e. through the body.
Severely negative and untreated or denied emotional patterns can lead to neuroses such as obsessive-compulsive disorders including perfectionism or poor impulse control or extremely low feelings of self-worth. Both Jung and Freud thought that these unconscious patterns were the most important factors influencing our waking behaviors and attitudes.
“Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along.”
The corollary to the above quote might be ‘Those we hate don’t just come along, they’ve been in us all along’.
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it,”
Love will find you if you’re open to it. It’s who you are basically.
“What you seek is seeking you.”
This is I believe true whether it’s love or hate that you are looking for. Hate is just the absence of love, an absence that isn’t really missing, just hidden and unacknowledged.
It’s your choice– hate is that which disturbs the body, the mind, the soul, ones peace and sense of safety. Hate causes muscles to ache, teeth to clinch and causes one to over inflate and feel helpless. It raises blood pressure to unhealthy levels, causes the mind to become irrational, adds unwanted weight and literally makes us sick physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Hate disconnects us from each other and from our own soul.
Love, on the other hand, in the form of acceptance, compassion, giving, and understanding brings with it relaxation, calmness, peace of mind, insight, and a sense of belonging and purpose. Love enhances health and connectedness.
Hate, again, blurs vision and constricts life while love opens the eyes wide in awe.
Hate may make you believe that you are right, but love makes you feel that all is right in the world. One brings hope with it while the other feeds hopelessness.
Basically hate is small while love is big. As Rumi says, “Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion.”
In every soul there is both darkness and light and as Rumi also claimed “it is our wounds from the darkness that open us to the light” but only when we don’t become lost in the darkness and become blind.
Hate stalks us all, when it finds you look around for the light.
Do you believe in magic? Be careful how you answer that. I have written much poetry, prose, and nonfiction musings about Magic though few readers imagine most of it as anything other than fantasy or madness*.
But for an intuitive few they see beyond the veil of modern sensibility and are able to discern the divine where humankind transcends the ego and touches the sublime.
Many physicians today aren’t as hard science as you might think either for many are quite superstitious what with surgeons needing their “lucky” cap in order to do surgery and don’t ever say how “quiet” it’s being in the ER on any “slow” day because the fates will surely punish you by bringing in a bloody mass of people. And how many of us “knock on wood” to prevent calamity?
And what about carrying around a rabbit’s foot or a good luck coin or praying to God to win against your opponent? How many of us would tempt the fates by deliberately breaking a mirror? We keep guardian angel charms, root around the grass for four-leaf clovers, nail horseshoes over the door, and hang a cross or St Christopher’s medal like a talisman on chains around our necks for protection. We burn sage to rid the air of negative energy and consult the Zodiac to see what’s in store for us for the day or as a means to strike up a conversation with the young woman at the bar next to us in hopes that we’ll get ‘lucky’. Note also the current fashion of citing Karma as a cause for negative experience or precognizance, remote viewing, astral projection and even the lauded law-of-attraction to explain the mystical.
There’s also the sacramental eating of the body of Christ and the drinking of his blood as symbols for taking in spiritual nourishment while a water baptism symbolizes the cleansing of one way of being to make room for another. Metaphor or ritual for some can be a magical reality for others. For some pagan tribes people consuming the blood or flesh of an enemy, a friend, or an animal is believed to bestow the power or bring about the union, of those individuals into the consumer.
The statement made recently by an American congressman that we don’t have to do anything about the world’s environmental problems because if God wanted to do something about global warming He would have done it. That’s Magical thinking at its best (worst?). It’s also fallacious attribution and superstition as is much of what the everyday calls magic or in some cases thinks of as truths.
We’re supposed to be modern humans grounded in the rational but magic is always creeping into our lives.
Before science came and attempted to control the aspects of the world through a rigorous and rational approach there was magic. The medicine man and shaman was the father to the physician, the alchemist was the father to the chemist, the astrologer gave birth to astronomy. Magic has literally created the need for science and specifically the scientific method. How so, you might ask? I’ll tell you. How else can the shaman, alchemist, and astrologer keep their job unless they learn to study how reality works so that they would more often be right than wrong in their pronouncements?
Magic also created the need for religion as a means of understanding the ineffable, that which cannot be understood by word alone. The truth is Magic is most often a state of mind and a way of being. It is not divorced from science in that it is the ground of being that brings us awe. Nor is it separate from modern religion in that benedictions and many prayers are forms of magic inherited from our pagan forbears. Magic can just be intention made manifest and in this way our prayers are answered through a way of being with the universe.
There’s a conversation all of us are having between our ego selves and our larger divine self. Mostly it’s a conversation spoken in symbols, myth and metaphor (as with the Eucharist) of which magic is an example. In magic we draw on the collective archetypes of humankind to communicate and make sense of the numinous. Magic in any of its multitudinous forms happens when we stop using it to control or protect that is when we transcend the ego’s point-of-view and become vulnerable to the life outside it.
Bottom line, when we stop separating ourselves from everything else we become at one with the universe and magic follows.
Magic happens when we stop using intermediaries between the divine and us whether these are objects or saints. When we stop imploring our gods and invoking our talismans we will begin to manifest our true selves and will be able to live in the numinous. Magic is all around us and permeates every cell of our being but its wisdom can only bear fruit when we let go of trying to control it and our drive to control can only be transcended when we are ready to let go of the ego.
A good conversation can only happen when people listen, it is so between the human being and the divine. Stop listening to your opinions and be open to reality. Or as a friend of mine once said, “Don’t believe everything you think.”
“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”
Many people over the years have shared their unusual experiences, bidden or unbidden, eyes open or eyes closed and all having profound effects on their ordinary state of consciousness. All those who shared seemed to experience a deep sense of connectedness or union with others and/or the environment.
Some people have had these experiences while in deep meditation, through their dreams, or while just walking down the street. There is for all a sense of transcending the self i.e. the ordinary self identified by name and body to a place of communion with something much, much greater.
Some years ago when descending from a hilltop building toward the parking lot below I happened to look out at the dusky glow of the city as it was slowly being cloaked by the evening light. My focus went to the traffic on the street slightly below me and made eye contact with one of the drivers.
Suddenly something else looked out from those eyes driving by. It was a spirit so profound I could only imagine it to be that of God. As I scanned other drivers this same observer looked out and saw a man standing on a hillside about to descend toward a parking lot. I was both seeing them and seeing me through them. The boundary between us disappeared and the stress of the day melted away.
I continued down the embankment with tears in my eyes knowing that something had changed forever in the way I was seeing the world. As I climbed into my car and pulled out of the lot and into the traffic on the street the experience lasted for at least another few minutes, or longer, or shorter, I don’t know because time too had stopped. Fortunately this didn’t last too much longer or I’d no doubt have ended up in a fender-bender.
This is what some philosophers call a mystical experience, though others might label it a brain burp caused by some random misfiring of neurons.
The phenomenology of mysticism was summarized in Borg and Wright’s book The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions (Chapter 4 page 61) where a five-part description of a mystical experience was presented.
Borg suggested that the pre Easter Jesus was a mystic and that “If one takes seriously that the sacred can be experienced, and that people who have such experiences frequently and vividly may be called mystics or Spirit persons, then it seems apparent that Jesus was one of these (62-63).”
Though Borg was describing the pre Easter Jesus he was also defining the experience of mysticism and mystics in general. Borg’s description seemed spot on with my own experience as well as those shared by the many people who have written me over the years.
Mystical experience generally involves five characteristics; Ineffability: where the experience can’t really be described through ordinary words, Transiency: where the experience is somewhat brief, Passivity: in that they are usually unbidden, received rather than achieved, the Noetic: produce a knowing of something not known before the experience i.e. a new reality. This may also include a sense of awe and joy. Fifth in the series is that these experiences are Transformative: they transform a person’s way of being in part because they see the world differently after the experience.
For me the experience on the hilltop above the parking lot was one of many I’ve experienced throughout my life all of which have shifted radically my vision of reality. Though my ego-self continues to insist that I view reality through a vision of separateness I know and am able to easily access the “knowing” that has grown from my experiences of the mystical.
I wish that I could share that there was some secret means for accessing the mystical spiritual but all of my experiences have come unbidden though my tendency to give emphasis to such things as dreams, meditations, spiritual, psychological and emotional exploration may have left me more open to them. I have often had a dream or a meditation or rumination that I thought should have produced something deep and profound only to have it reach the level of interesting but hardly awe-inspiring. It’s one of those pieces of “magic” that can’t be made to happen but can be allowed or given room to happen.
Walking in darkness, unseen for he had never beheld the light. He didn’t know it was there because for him there had been only the night.
Walking, walking, a forest path, a city sidewalk, a sandy beach, a mountain trail, then down a slippery slope toward the parking lot something reached in and gripped his heart and stole his mind, turned it inside out and twisted his reality.
And it’s never looked the same, sounded the same, felt the same since.
In each a voice overran the mindless chatter and filled him with a sound so complete, so beautiful, and so loving that he found it hard to breathe and the world gave promise to a way of being beyond all its pretty words.
But as time passed the promise of those extraordinary moments seemed to fade into the darkening mist of the every day.
“What now?” said he, and the voice was still and his heart became darker and the black crept back into his world.
Then a soft and loving breeze came upon him and swirled about and within leaving him with barely heard but solidly felt words of assurance, “You’re on your own now. You have what was once secret but now visible to you no matter where you turn your head. But don’t hold for too long for it’s only yours so long as you keep giving it away.”
At that moment everything changed for everything became an opportunity to give it away and the promise came out of the mist and pointed the way. Giving became getting, letting go was an act of love and he walked out of the darkness and into the sunlight.
What is this darkness of which the young man spoke and what of the light that dispels it?
It is the darkness of unknowing, of the unconscious and of not wanting to know what is beyond the horizon of your mind.
The light is of the flash of knowing, and facing the legions of bogey men that hide in the dark alleys of the unexplored. It is the brilliance that dispels all dark things that go bump in the night. It is your beautiful face long unseen because you turned away too soon, listening to others and to the voice implanted by those who knew only the blackness as well. Alas, we embrace ignorance too easily you and I because it feels safer hiding here in this cave, this waking dream of a frightened mind.
Once in a while after much running in the opposite direction the light blows in and disrupts all our best intentions that often produce the worst results and shakes us to our core, scrambling the carefully built fantasy and opening us to the fearsome reality of real love. Once in a while someone awakes from the dream and can never return to the land of the dark. It is called a mystical experience and those who walk into the light of the experience can never fully return to the cave and become obligated to be of the world instead of just in it.
These are the children of the ecstatic, the modern-day mystics if you will. Often the light is thrust upon them in that they weren’t seeking it, reluctant really, but once enlightened, becoming obligated to share it.
But many times it’s the seeker that finds at their darkest moment, the moment when they have given up the search, the light will grab them and shake them awake.
May the light grab you and shake you awake before it’s too late and you have to do it all over again.
In response to a prayer not too long ago regarding an entreaty to help with turning around the negativity in the world especially as it relates to the current dark aspects of the American political climate I had a dream.
In the dream I was trying to change the attitude of a dark man who was being very skeptical. I was trying to get him to turn away from his criminality. Later I was told to clean up old washing machines lying helter-skelter in some field.
Basically the dream was presenting me with my own dark side, or shadow, and suggesting that I needed to deal with it as well, that the problem lay also with me and not just the outside world. What I needed to do was to clean up old and no longer useful machinery i.e. ways of being and thinking.
There were other parts of the dream where I was looking for ways to not take the blame for things, in other words ducking responsibility. This made me look to where I was not willing to be responsible for my less desirable and unhelpful traits.
Though I was praying for an answer to my feelings of helplessness, the dream turned that around by empowering me to deal with my own negative contributions to what was being manifest in the greater world.
This dream is an example of the mirror aspect of dreams in that a dream is like standing before a mirror and seeing yourself more directly and clearly. So too the world about us is a mirror to ourselves both in what we admire and what we reject, in what makes us proud and in what we fear.
Often the outside world reflects our own growth or need for growth. We tend to ignore our own flaws by projecting them onto others. By being outwardly critical we may also be passive aggressively self-critical.
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”
I believe that Jung’s statement is especially true in our dreams. Essentially I believe that we are not what happens to us but what we have chosen to become and that to some degree the outside world reflects that. To varying degrees the world we see and react to reflects some part of ourselves admired or rejected. In short, we can do little to change the outside if we aren’t willing or ready to change the inside.
As I wrote this and shared it with a friend they pointed out to me that this may also be the message from Mathew 7: 3-5:
3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
Always good advice I thought but though they sound similar, the difference in the motivation behind each may give some insight into their usefulness in that the biblical entreaty uses a key word i.e. “hypocrite” that suggests a liar and deceiver, a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings implying a wrong doing that needs to be corrected in order to meet a religious expectation or to change the behavior of someone outside oneself. This is not the motivation behind Jung’s quote where he believes that we can use our prejudices and judgments of others to better understand ourselves and not as a means of changing something outside ourselves that you can’t do anyway.
On occasion I have written about the phenomenon I call “eating the heart”–self-judgment and depression. Most of the time I can see that there is no real cause for this mood–no real reason to feel depressed, or reason for self-flagellation, so I just let it be. Some of the time I resist it because it robs me of feeling good about myself and being happy in the world. And all of the time I don’t much care for it. What I haven’t done is to embrace it.
What the ancients called “coming into Saturn,” or being Saturn’s Child is an expression of soul as much as is happiness. For me, depression and self-judgment has provided the energy to look deeper into the meaning of my life and to explore what it means to be fully human. I don’t want to make my shadow a friend, but I don’t want to ignore, or deny it either. Being whole and complete means to embrace (and accept responsibility for) everything that you are and are not. I don’t want to be a shallow personality, but this has a price in that more often than I care to I fall under Saturn’s spell.
Is it possible that depression is not always an evil neurosis to be mechanically controlled through medication and/or counseling? It is possible that the soul is more than just goodness and purity, that it is dark fantasy as well. It is also possible that the process of depression is similar to an alchemist’s crucible where what you are becomes ground and reduced into the essence of being.
Sometimes people need a dark and shaded place to withdraw to and allow the perfectly legitimate feelings of depression to have free reign. Sometimes the act of resisting this natural element of what we are can entrench it and over time cause it to become pathological.
Depression can be a gift in that it causes one to evaluate the life they’re living–it causes them to go deeper and to begin to ask the fundamental questions of, “who am I and what is my purpose?”
What happens when we resist Saturn?
In our society we spend a lot of time and money entertaining ourselves so to not experience this part of our soul, our humanity, our essence. I think when we suppress anything for too long it begins to express itself in aberrant ways. Denying a part of the soul causes it to ‘act out’ in order to be expressed. We can see this acting out all around us through violence, both verbal and physical.
Religious zealots who’ve mistakenly assumed that one is either good or evil become evil themselves through resistance to the reality that each of us is both Christ and Satan, spirit and ego. Denying a part of oneself is being less than whole and this leads one to fear, and fear can lead us to act in small ways such as to hate or kill what we fear. We see the results of this misunderstanding of how big we really are and the denial of the shadow in the violence sewn by Muslim fanatics such as al-Qaeda, ISIS, and Christian hate mongers such as the Westboro Baptist Church people. As with the denied, or unconscious aspects of ourselves, rigid dichotomies frequently lead us to all kinds of intolerant and aberrant behaviors.
If God is indeed the unlimited source of all there is, then any limitation becomes a sin– a missing the mark. Fear is a limited perspective also and is seldom a positive emotion to act out of. It may have served us well when we huddled in our caves, but it often gets in the way in the modern age. Defining God too narrowly is also a sin of limited perspective, as is doing hateful things in his name. All of this misses the point of the fundamental unity that a broader perspective generates.
I had a visit from the young man yesterday and we sat down at a local coffee shop to catch up and reminisce.
Ordering our coffees we picked them up and sat down in a private corner of the shop. As we pulled up chairs and sat the young man, Adam, began the conversation.
“I remember a spiritual teacher once sharing with me that enlightenment could be found in the yellow pages of the phone book that is, to turn to any page and there it is. I also learned of the technique of problem solving by opening any book to a random page and searching for the answer. In those early days I was always asking some form of the question, “How can I be enlightened?” as though the answer to that question would enable me to live happily ever after like in some magical fantasy story.
“Enlightenment is not an end unto itself, it’s an ongoing process.” The teacher would say and then he might add, “Just when you think you’re enlightened, you’re not.”
“It all seemed so simple, but no matter how many pages in the phone book that I’d turn to or how many pages in my favorite novel, or even in random pages of the Bible I couldn’t find any answers to the questions I posed– it all seemed like one big non sequitur. I could practice all the suggested rituals and study all the world’s philosophies, or focus my complete attention on paradoxical Koans1 that usually only twisted and contorted my mind into knots. But I couldn’t force anything to happen. Annoyingly the teacher would remind me, “It’s not about force, my boy. The power is not in force.”
“I had not yet learned how to intend a jewel or how to recognize one when it presented itself. It was only after a number of years did I learn to trust that an answer could be found in unexpected places if I expected to find it there. I learned to prime the pump by praying on it or in asking the source for guidance regarding it. I learned that the answer would show up in an unexpected way or from an unexpected source if I were to remain patient enough and quiet enough to see it or hear it.“
“I’ve learned that enlightenment can’t be forced, it doesn’t operate on the ego’s time table or its perception and it doesn’t come in a form that the ego imagines it wants or needs for the ego has no idea what it needs and what it wants is irrelevant to the universe.” I added.
“ Yes, learn to expect the unexpected jewels from unexpected places. My teacher used to say” exclaimed Adam.
“I also remember him saying, “It’s like that with making a difference too, and you never know when you’re going to, but with the intention of doing so in everything that you do, unexpected positive things happen. Intend on making a difference and you will even if you’re never aware of it.”
“Are you making a difference?” I asked.
“Oh yes in so many small ways. Ways that may take some time to be noticed if noticed at all.”
“Yes, I’ve noticed that wanting to be noticed for what you do gets in the way of making a difference. Hard lesson that…” I said “learning to let go of what the ego craves.”
Adam nodded wistfully as though the memory of needing acknowledgment was still a struggling desire in his present life.
Finally he asked, “Does it ever end, this desire for recognition?”
“It’s a struggle I admit but it’s amazing what gets done when you don’t care who gets the credit.” I said. “There’s something deep within us that represents true awareness and knows who we are. It’s a divine force that urges us towards creation. It is from that force that each of us was created and it’s through us that we become extensions of it when we learn to release it into our lives.”
Adam nodded and smiled, pushed back his chair and we headed out the door walking arm on shoulder into the morning sun and promising not to let the time between us be so long we headed into our separate Moirai 2.
1Koans such as “the sound of one hand clapping”, or “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it”, or “Resist not evil.”
2 Moirai: Meaning fate, or shared fates, destiny or futures. The Moirai were ancient Greek goddesses of fate.
Dreams of being a child have come into my sleep along with being wrong and making mistakes, feeling shame and powerlessness and falling. When my waking dream becomes too stressful, when I find that I can’t stay in the here and now because I’m caught up in worries about the future, or guilt from the past, I find my dreams full of powerlessness and fear. Hurricanes, storms, titanic waves, and floods wash through my dreams and add even greater stress to a psyche overburdening itself. If the dreams shared with me on-line are any indication, I’d say this might be true for many of you.
Though I did not measure up to my personal expectations, to the image of myself that I thought I should be, I realized something much greater. The Black Dream where I found myself in the waking world had been giving way to something new.
When facing the darkness one can receive images much grander than their limited images of self. For me I saw that I never gave up, though the way looked impossible; that I always strove to become better than either my own judgments, or the judgments of others. Somehow I found the courage to stand up to the feelings of failure and rejection and to face what I judged to be humiliation with my head held high. I allowed myself to feel the fool and to grow from its presence, to go beyond the fears and become bigger than my estimate of myself.
The experience of recent events and the consciousness they brought in their wake have helped me to realize some of how big I really am. I may not be what I think I should be, an ego-self desire, but once again I’ve discovered that I’m really so much more.
Until I was willing to truly accept the darkness and honor its value, I couldn’t see the ever so small light flickering in the corner. I’ve been fighting the darkness ever so long, but the truth is that rejecting the darkness also rejects the light. This morning, I saw the barest glow and reached for it and it warmed and filled the space that dispelled the darkness before it. Hanging onto the light often seems harder than living in the darkness. But I think it’s a miracle that the light is there at all.
And that’s the gift of the Black Dream, the Shadow, the darkness; it highlights the flicker of light that is our true self. I can also see that to keep it burning I need to share it and it’s in that vein that I do so now. As I’ve said earlier, love is the cure for our nightmares; it’s the light within our darkness.